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London/Paris or explore France?

Hello all, after two wonderful trips travelling all corners of Italy, my wife and I are considering two weeks in France. Half in Paris and half exploring other regions of France. But we've also been tempted to do a week in London and then take the Chunnel over to Paris for a week. I'd feel like I'm cheating by not having the adventure of taking a train or car and seeing more of France. But the simplicity of two big cities without the stress of missed trains and driving foreign roads is appealing. Yes, we both been to London but not for years and really loved it. So my question is; I know that just going to Rome and Florence is far from a true Italian experience. Is only going to Paris the same for France?

Posted by
11 posts

Hello, visiting Paris is great. 5 sleeps in Paris is plenty. Paris is most definitely not France. The reason why France is the most visited country in the world is because of the unique culture and cuisine and produce of each region. We've driven through the Loire Valley and the South of France with not a problem. The highways are beautiful. However, be sure to have lots of loose change around for the frequent hwy tolls. I recommend you drive through Provence. We picked the beautiful town of Aix en Provence as our home base. We took a bullet train to Paris all the way to Aix. Picked up our rental car at the train station and then off we went. The best family trip ever. Be sure to buy extra collision insurance on your rental vehicle. The French don't mind scratching your parked car as they squeeze past on those narrow streets. Fold in your mirrors when parking. You have 2 full weeks in France. Please leave Paris. Visit Provence region, Drive thru the French Riviera all the way to Monaco and back. You will be amazed at the beauty of this complex country.

Posted by
2712 posts

The nice thing about Paris is there are neighborhoods to explore with small streets, boutique shops, cafes and you have really wonderful museums, churches. As far as the “true” experience? Well, France is big. Some would argue that the true French experience can only be had by visiting Provence, others would say its Burgundy, others the Basque Country. It’s very diverse. If you want to get out and explore, skip London and Paris and plot a variety if destinations. You’ll need all two weeks and then some (if you can spare it). But, nothing at all shabby about a week in London, a week in Paris. Do look at the RS London tour. We had been to London several times and were unsure what value this could possibly add. Well, it was a great tour with maximum use of our time, great guides. There is s similar tour of Paris. In our travels we’ve met folk who have been to Paris dozens of times and still return for weeks at a time. That city never gets old!

Posted by
14163 posts

I love the Paris and London combo! I love at least a full week in Paris and and a full week in London but there is never enough time in either city to see all that I want. I am not really a city person but these 2 are my favorites.

I tend to fly in to London Heathrow because I like to take the National Express bus in to Victoria Station which is near the hotel I like. Then I take the Eurostar to Paris and fly back home from there because I find it easier to take a taxi from the hotel to the airport there. Of course it depends on what schedules work best for flights from your location.

Buy your Eurostar tickets well ahead for the best prices.

Posted by
1585 posts

"I know that just going to Rome and Florence is far from a true Italian experience. Is only going to Paris the same for France?"

Indeed it is Exley. Paris is a bustling and an iconic city in europe but to get a feeling of the real France, explore other parts of france. I get a true feeling of being a Parisian by venturing off to smaller towns and villages of France. Places such as a the Dordogne region, Loire, Champagne and Provence. I know you and your wife love London my friend but venture off to the the other parts of France and indulge yourself deeper into french culture.

Posted by
676 posts

My advice stems from the thought process on whether or not you’re planning to go back to Europe. If you don’t think you’ll get back to Europe anytime soon and you love London and are hankering to get back, then why not go?

If you are going back, I would absolutely recommend getting out into the countryside of France! We’ve spent 10 days in Paris over the course of two trips and 5 days in Normandy and 5 days in the Loire Valley. The countryside is an amazing place to spend some time and yes - very different than Paris. We love France very much and are planning a return visit to explore the Dordogne in 2020.

We’re able to travel frequently so we try to focus our time on each country and not combine destinations. I’ve found that you really get to experience the different flavors of the different areas of a country that way.

We had a car for both of our countryside visits in France. We found driving in France to be a pleasure; other drivers are very courteous and the driving flows very smoothly. I understand about not always wanting a car though. Not sure what regions might be more friendly to get around by public transportation, others may have good insight if not renting a car is a priority for you. Happy travels!

Posted by
15647 posts

kinda apples and bicycles. Big city or countryside/villages. Paris is Paris, France is France, different places with a (usually) common language. With good GPS driving in France is not challenging. But London is also a great city to visit.

and lastly, nitpicking - take Eurostar between London and Paris :-)

Posted by
489 posts

Apples and bicycles indeed. Well said Chani.
Of course Paris is not France, but it is Paris and that's wonderful. I know people who have visited France several times, say they love it, and have never left Paris. We, on the other hand, like both Paris and the rest of France. Some of our favorite memories are from times we got "lost" in the car and discovered someplace wonderful. By the way, the same thing has happened while wandering on foot in Paris.
You could certainly have a wonderful trip while staying in "just" London and Paris. Driving in France is not difficult, but you clearly have an affinity for the simplicity of the cities.
I don't see how anyone can give you good advice without knowing what floats your boat. I considered it essential in London to go to Harrods. I doubt that's true for everyone.
Are you in the mood for apples or bicycles?

Posted by
885 posts

I agree with Julie......we have a special place in our hearts for Paris and France. We prefer renting a car and driving through the French countryside, stopping and exploring anything that catches our eye. A Parisian put us on to THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VILLAGES IN FRANCE book......what a game changer. Now when we map our routes we always try and go through as many of those places as possible......and it has made for some sweet memories. When we were doing Normandy we stopped in Beuvron En Auge, had an apple strudel there on a sidewalk cafe and it was a lovely experience......quiet and peaceful and beautiful. These villages are so worth stopping to see...and if you travel France’s countryside you will see them if you plan and do your homework. My father-in-law was a farmer and always encouraged us to get out in the countryside and truly see a country....and we have loved doing that in France. I have to admit that our 1 England experience was not a good one....48 hour layover in London, hot July days, pouring rain and the food was awful and the crowds were thick as they could be. We need to do England and give it a fair shake. I have to add that Paris is just as unique......been 3 times, to 3 different neighborhoods and each trip has been as special as the one before. Hope this helps.....have fun!

Posted by
2136 posts

18 months ago my wife had a business trip to London. We tacked on a trip to Paris while we were over there.

This May my wife had to return to London on business. This time, we went a week early and spent the time in Loches, France. While we had a wonderful time in London, since you've visited there, I would recommend Paris and the French countryside.

I would also suggest that you spend a week in Paris, then a week in one region of France. Don't try to do everything.

Spend the first week in Paris, then take the train to a selected region and rent a car there. At the end of the week, take the train back to Paris. As I mentioned, we stayed in Loches. It's a charming town that's pretty much off the tourist radar, but it's only a short drive to Tours, Amboise and the other sites in the Loire valley. Our two bedroom apartment, complete with kitchen and courtyard, was $450 for the week.

Posted by
4132 posts

Multiple great trips are possible either way. So, this is totally your call.

I suggest fleshing out two hypothetical itineraries and seeing what calls to you.

You haven't said much about what you'd like to see in France. Think about that and then decide which alternative is best.

Posted by
1175 posts

We annually take two weeks flying into Heathrow, spend two nights, usually take the Eurostar to Paris then a train to Caen to fetch our rental car. We've also done Portsmouth after arriving at Heathrow, then a ferry over to Quistreham, the ferry port, then a bus to the Caen railroad station, again to fetch our rental car. Driving from Caen to Bayeux or to a rural B&B is very easy. We drove to Mont St. Michel, did a D -Day tour, explored small towns in Normandy, then took the train back to Paris after dropping the rental car across the street from the Caen railroad station. You also might consider taking the high speed train to Nice or Monte Carlo from Paris, getting a rental car there, then driving around exploring towns. Lots of choices. We always end up in London for 2-3 nights then fly home from there. So, a total of 4-5 nights in London total, 3-4 nights in Paris, 3-4 nights in either Monte Carlo or Bayeux. Driving outside of French cities is easy and one can enjoy the freedom to roam at will. If you've not experienced Paris I would suggest more nights there and leave the south of France for another adventure. Decisions, decisions....

Posted by
11393 posts

There is no 'wrong' answer/choice, so draw straws, flip a coin, whatever...... and do the 'other' on the next trip

Posted by
27 posts

Thanks to everyone for such gracious advice. We are going to spend the whole time in France. Most likely a week in Paris and head south. Excited to start the serious planning. Happy travels!

Posted by
2136 posts

We are going to spend the whole time in France.

Excellent choice! Prepare to fall in love!

Posted by
2916 posts

I know that just going to Rome and Florence is far from a true Italian experience. Is only going to Paris the same for France?

Definitely! And I think you've made the right decision. We've been to Paris many times, mostly in the somewhat distant past but always including the countryside. But for many years now we've visited different parts of rural France almost exclusively. As someone mentioned, there's a reason why France is the most visited country in the world. Have a great trip!

Posted by
9 posts

France is such a wonderful country. We have not seen enough of it so we going back this December and see a little more. One thing that I can highly recommend,
Is visit the D-Day sites in the Normandy region. You can train there and spend a couple of day. We are training from Paris to Bayeux. It’s a lovely little town. I suggested to a friend visiting there, while he was there last month so he did. He came saying it was one of the highlights of his family trip and he could believe that with all times he visited France that he didn’t go there sooner. There is such much history there and the people are just so friendly. I’m very excited to go back there and see more. You. can take a train to Strasbourg. It’s a very easy train ride.

Posted by
134 posts

France is amazing, enjoy the journey and please post a trip report after you return.

Posted by
2712 posts

We spent a delightful week in the town of Lourmarin in the heart of the Luberon region of Provence. Our days began with me wandering to the bakery for croissants, then having them with coffee, planning our day. The town was perfectly situated for day trips and we’d end each day on our terrace, often with a bottle of wine if we were dining in town. On Friday the town is taken over by a very large market, otherwise it’s very peaceful. Oh, and Albert Camus is buried there.